Thought leadership

NHS is taking steps in the right direction to improve staff engagement and patient care but employee consultation and communication remains a challenge

CIPD, HPMA and NHS Employers to join forces in enabling and empowering HR professionals to improve people management practice in a challenging environment

The latest NHS staff survey findings highlight some welcome improvements but more needs to be done to improve communication by senior managers and consultation with NHS employees on important decisions. This is the message from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Healthcare People Management Association (HPMA), as they reveal plans to join forces with NHS Employers to form an NHS HR Partnership.

On a positive note, the survey finds that results for job satisfaction are slightly up from last year with just over three-quarters of staff (78%) satisfied with the support they receive from colleagues and seventy-four percent satisfied with the amount of responsibility they are given (up from 71% in 2011).

However the survey finds that only about a third of employees believe that communication between senior managers and staff are effective and just 28% believe senior managers involve staff in important decisions. In addition only 55% of employees report they receive clear feedback on their work from their line manager.

The findings also highlight that more work needs to be done to ensure that all staff are confident that senior managers will act on concerns highlighted by employees – a problem highlighted by the recent Francis report into the public inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. While 86% of NHS staff felt encouraged by their organisation to report errors and near misses, only 61% thought action was taken to prevent similar errors occurring in the future.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, comments: “Considering the huge amount of change and spending restraint in the health service there are some positive findings in the survey, and other organisations could do well to follow the NHS’ example in the level of detail and transparency with which they are addressing issues of staff engagement. However, the findings suggest more needs to be done to improve communication and consultation with staff. For employee engagement and innovation to thrive, and for whistleblowers to feel protected, it’s important to create an open culture where senior managers consult staff about key decisions and employees trust their managers enough to be able to express their views whether asked for them or not. If you don’t consult staff as a leader you are effectively saying we don’t think staff have a valid opinion and that senior managers always know best. Consultation also has to be meaningful, allowing enough time for the effective consideration of employee opinions before decisions are taken.”

Kevin Croft, president at the Healthcare People Management Association (HPMA), added: “I think that what the staff survey results, combined with the findings of the Francis inquiry, have shown is that whilst we know good people management is fundamental to  achieving  quality patient care there is still some way to go in making this the norm.  As HR professionals, we need to make sure staff are engaged,   feel appreciated and valued. The HPMA will be launching details of an initiative in the near future to help this happen and to take forward the lessons from both of these reports.”

The HPMA, the CIPD and NHS Employers are working together as the NHS HR Partnership to develop insightful and effective HR capability in the NHS, enabling and empowering HR professionals to improve people management practice, and patient care, in a challenging environment.


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